Advice on reading philosophy

Phil asked:

How can one best read philosophy so as to increase one’s understanding of it?

Answer by Shaun Williamson

I think one thing you need to do at some stage is to read a history of philosophy. This will give you an overview of how philosophy developed. Bertrand Russell’s one volume history of Western Philosophy is available for free over the internet (at http://www.gutenberg.org). The multi volume history by F. Copleston is also worth reading.

You should keep in mind that any history will reflect the bias of its author but both of these will give a useful overview of the history and scope of philosophy and may give you ideas for further reading.

In general you should keep in mind that philosophy is a difficult subject, as difficult as nuclear physics or higher mathematics so don’t expect to understand any book the first time you read it. You need persistence and you have to be prepared for your brain to hurt.

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